Community Design Fact Sheets for Safe Streets and Healthy Communities - CivicWell

Community Design Fact Sheets for Safe Streets and Healthy Communities

Community Design

Fact Sheet

Calles Seguras Para Peatones (Streets that are Safe for Pedestrians) and Salud y Diseño Urbano (Health and Community Design) are part of a packet that includes the following:

  • A Fact Sheet that addresses pedestrian safety issues with a special focus on the disproportionate number of Latino pedestrians hit by motor vehicles in California. (Calles Seguras Para Peatones)
  • A fact sheet that discusses how physical inactivity and poor community design have been contributing factors in the increase of diabetes in California adults, especially among the Latino population. (Salud y Diseño Urbano)
  • A walkability checklist that community leaders can use with members of their communities to identify street deficiencies in their neighborhoods
  • Safety tip cards for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Download Fact Sheets in Spanish | Download Fact Sheets in English

This project was funded through an environmental justice grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Project support was provided by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Safe Streets for Pedestrians

Pedestrian deaths account for more than 20% of all traffic-related fatalities in California each year.

More than 600 people are killed and another 13,000 are injured every year as pedestrians in California.

Being hit by a car while walking is the 2nd leading cause of death for California children aged 5-12. Nearly 5,000 child pedestrians are injured annually.

Are We People-Friendly?

The ability for people to walk to get to destinations has diminished significantly in recent decades. Today, in
most communities, we need a car to get around. This is largely due to the design of communities that focus on allowing cars – not people – to get around. The irony is that by emphasizing motor vehicle transportation we’ve ended up creating more congested roadways that are unsafe for all users, including motorists.

Wide streets, poorly designed streets and intersections, lack of sidewalks and poor connectivity have resulted in physical environments that are dangerous to pedestrians.

These conditions further discourage people from walking. When people do venture out to walk on these streets, they often face high-speed traffic and dangerous conditions that result in high rates of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

In California, pedestrian deaths account for more than 20% of all traffic-related fatalities each year, according to a Surface Transportation Policy Project report.

Pedestrian Safety Solutions

A variety of solutions can be implemented in our cities to prevent pedestrian injuries. Some can range from community programs started at the grassroots level to citywide policies adopted by local governments to encourage new developments that pedestrian-friendly community design including streets that are safe for people to walk on.

Below is a list of community programs and local government policies that your community can use to encourage residents to walk and reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities:

Community Programs and Projects

  • Organize “walking school buses.”
  • Initiate a traffic and safety education campaign.
  • Work with community members to trim shrubs that limit sight distance and encroach on sidewalks.
  • Work with community members to remove obstacles from sidewalks.
  • Evaluate your community’s streets by using a walkability checklist to identify deficiencies in your streets. (See walkability checklist in PDF.)

Local Government Policies

  • Talk to city leaders about adopting and implementing policies that ensure your streets are well-designed with short blocks, narrow, tree-lined streets with on-street parking, and sidewalks that are at least five feet wide.
  • Talk to city leaders about retrofitting unsafe streets on which drivers travel at higher speeds than desirable, through exploring traffic-calming strategies that slow vehicles down and even out the flow of traffic.

Health and Community Design

70% of adults do not get the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Diabetes has increased by 67% among California adults – which is linked to a dramatic rise in physical inactivity in adults.

Many neighborhoods and communities are designed in such a way as to discourage routine physical activity.

How we shape growth in California is crucial to making our communities healthier, safer and more livable. An important measure of livability is how physically active and healthy people are.

Walkable, bicycle-friendly communities provide opportunities for regular physical activity – which is important in preventing chronic health problems and improving quality of life.

According to a study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, diabetes has increased by 67% among California adults, which is linked to a dramatic rise in obesity and physical inactivity in adults.

Current land use patterns, such as large-lot or strip development, lack of through streets or walkways, dead
wall space, lack of crosswalks, long blocks, unappealing walks, wide and unshaded streets, wide streets with no medians, and large auto-oriented uses all inhibit walking.


Good community design is one of the ways that we can encourage more Californians to be physically active. Healthy communities provide a physical environment that allows residents to incorporate physical activity into their daily life.

Below is a list of recommendations that you can work with suggest to your local elected officials to implement:

What Your Community Can Do

  • Provide accommodations for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in transportation programs.
  • Ensure connectivity among pedestrian, bicycle, transit and road facilities.
  • Engage in local planning processes, such as planning meetings and urban planning workshops to design communities with a mix of uses and nearby destinations.
  • Coordinate a “Bike to Work Day.”
  • Promote exercise that involves 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week or more.
  • Start a traffic calming program in your neighborhood.

Safety Tips for Walkers

  1. Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you have to walk in the road, always walk FACING traffic, so you can see any car that might go out of control.
  2. Dress to be seen. Brightly colored clothing makes it easier for drivers to see you during the daytime. At night, you need to wear special reflective material on your shoes, cap, or jacket to reflect the headlights of cars coming towards you.
  3. Cross only at corners or marked crosswalks.
  4. Stop at the curb, or the edge of the road before crossing.
  5. Stop and look left, then right, then left again, before you step into the street.
  6. If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right and left again until no cars are coming.
  7. If a car is parked where you are crossing, make sure there is no driver in the car. Then go to the edge of the car and look left-right-left until no cars are coming. Keep looking for cars while you are crossing, and remember, walk. Don’t run.

Safety Tips for Bicyclists

  1. Bikers should always stop and look for traffic when entering the road, especially from a driveway, alley or curb. Always stop at a stop sign or red light.
  2. Go with the flow of traffic. Ride on the right, the same way as a car.
  3. Avoid riding in dark conditions, on narrow roads, and on roads with cars traveling faster than 35 mph. If you ride at night, use reflectors, lights and retro-reflective clothing.
  4. Be predictable. Ride in a straight line. Look behind you before changing lanes or turning, use your hand signal and proceed carefully.
  5. Obey all traffic signs and signals. Walk your bicycle across busy intersections.
  6. Be prepared to ride around obstacles like storm grates and railroad tracks, and avoid riding where you could be struck by an opening car door.

Designing for Bicycling

On residential streets with low traffic speeds and volumes, it is often possible for bicyclists to ride on the street. However, on streets with higher volumes and traffic speeds it is necessary to provide a bicycle lane.

Trails that support bicycling, rollerblading and walking in residential neighborhoods are a great way for families to get around.

Ideally, all schools should be accessible through local trails.

To encourage people to ride their bicycles, infrastructure, including bicycle parking, lockers and, at workplaces, lockers and showers is needed.

For residents to bicycle to work and other regional destinations, consider ways to provide a larger network of trails that link up key destinations.